PRINCEVILLE – An April 25 letter from the Princeville Board of Commissioners and addressed to state officials places the blame on a former town manager and a current employee for its late submission of the 2011 audit.
Princeville attorney Charles Watts wrote the letter on behalf of the board and said it was management failures of former town manager Victor Marrow, along with the alleged misappropriation of funds by Diana Draughn that caused the late submission.
By law, the audit was to have been submitted to the state seven months ago. Since then, the state’s Local Government Commission has sent at least four letters asking for the audit as well as for a plan of corrective action fo alleviate Princeville’s financial condition.
Although Watts’ letter included the requested documents, it did not comply with all of the requests for information from the state.
The board adopted the audit and its corrective action plans during a meeting on April 23 when mayor Priscilla Everette-Oates and commissioners Isabell Purvis-Andrews and Calvin Sherrod voted to approve both the audit and its corrective action plans.
Commissioner Gwen Knight voted against it, saying, “I didn’t have any input in it. I didn’t see it until the next day. How can I vote on something that I have not seen?”
Knight also questioned the validity of Watt’s letter, which has her name on it, but she said she has not received a copy.
“Again, if this is from the board, why weren’t I and Commissioner Howell involved in it?” Knight asked. “Our charter states that five people make up a board, not three."
Watts said he wasn't aware whether or not Knight had seen the documents before the meeting.
"I am not in a position to know what Ms. Knight received or didn’t receive," he said. "The legal strictures that make it hard for her are her doing. There is no place for the violence and disrespect that got her to where she is on this stuff. However, the bottom line is that I have nothing to do with or say about what she received or didn’t receive. I do know that appropriate standard operating procedures are in place at the town to ensure that board members are generally informed of and provided documents that come before them."
State officials appeared to have grown weary of the town’s tardiness in submitting its audit and correction plans. In a letter to the board dated April 24, T. Vance Holloman, made strong statements suggesting the audit be submitted no later than April 30. That letter was the last of four written by the state to Princeville regarding the audit. One of the letters asked the board to submit, in a letter, why the audit was late and include the signature of all of the commissioners on both the audit and correction action plans. Knight and Howell did not sign the letter.
“It should not be valid because LGC asked for the signature of every member of the board,” Knight said. “I have not signed anything and, I was not asked to sign anything. They are doing everything against LGC correspondences, as well as breaking state, local and federal statues.”
In Watt’s response to LGC, he pointed out that Draughn, the former finance officer, allegedly misappropriated $600. Draughn, who was charged with a felony, is still working with the town, although in a different job.
Watts said Marrow chose to suspend Draughn instead of terminating her. Draughn was suspended for three days and stripped of the finance officer’s position.
In February, the auditor came to Princeville. On Feb. 6, Marrow was fired because he did not agree with stipulations on his new contract with the town which, he said, included a pay cut and grant writing.
“Immediate steps were taken, even as the draft audit was being reviewed by staff and yet to have been finalized to address the internal control issues identified by the audit,” Watts stated in the letter. “Also, immediate steps were taken to address revenue collection in both the water and sewer funds as well as the general fund. These steps included the ultimately aborted efforts to continue the employment of Mr. Marrow to encourage him to be more effective in his job with respect to both revenue generation and budget compliance. His unwillingness to accept the strictures of the proposed contract extension opened the door for the town to search for a truly competent and effective town manager.”
Marrow lasted two years as town manager in Princeville and was replaced by interim town manager Maggie Boyd, who had no previous experience as a town manager.
According to Watt’s letter, the town is progressing under Boyd’s leadership.
“The departure of Mr. Marrow, while disruptive to the audit process and a significant part of the reason for the audits delay, has put the town in the position to address the audit’s critiques of his competence by bringing in new and more competent staff. This process is on going and the interim town manager is doing an excellent job as that process plays out."
"It's a shame that they have treated Victor the way that they did," she said. "They have thrown him under the bus. And they have hired someone to replace him that does not have any experience in town management. That's a shame."